Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Tis the Season!

 Here it is at last, the fourth Sunday of Advent!  I like to keep Advent as a season in its own right, a time not for holiday celebrations before their time, but rather for quietly waiting for Christmas as the darkness deepens outside.  But now that the last Advent candle has been lit, it's time to start bringing some Christmas things down from the attic, including this little shrine to a paddler Santa and his northwoods companions.

A few more creatures have joined the party this year, including several that normally wouldn't be up and about at Christmas time -- the snapping turtle and snake would likely be hibernating (as would the bear and raccoon), the Mallard hen should have flown south, and the Red-eyed Tree Frog would never be found this far north unless it was somebody's pet.  But I couldn't find any toy native frogs this tiny, and besides, we know that Santa is magic, and that his love would be strong enough to keep everybody warm.  (And also to keep the critters from trying to eat one another.)

The weather, too, took a Christmassy turn today, with temperatures plunging down into the teens and single digits.  But oh, what a sapphire sky!  I wrapped up my ears and set off around the shore of Moreau Lake for an afternoon hike.  My approach set off quite a ruckus among the large flock of Canada Geese that had congregated on the open water of the lake.

Although the windswept center of the lake was still wide open, all the sheltered bays were filmed with a thin layer of ice, not strong enough yet to walk on, but glassy enough to make for some lovely reflections.

Close to the shore, where the ice froze clear as crystal, I could see these clusters of tiny bubbles trapped beneath, flattened on top where they pressed against the ice, which rendered them iridescent.

Here are some more.  Aren't they beautiful?  Who need diamonds and pearls, when Nature gifts us with such treasures.

The ice turned the bubbles to diamonds and pearls,  while the sunlight turned the water ripples to ribbons of gold on the underlying sand.

As I strode along on the sunlit shore, I grew warm enough to loosen my coat -- almost warm enough to fool me into thinking these might be blooming flowers, opening their yellow petals to the sun.  But no, I knew better.  These are the bracts of Witch Hazel flowers, what's left after the ribbon-like petals have fallen.

Wouldn't these pretty Witch Hazel bracts make appropriate Christmas decorations, as symbols of life in the dead of winter, the same as evergreens?  No, no, I take that back.  Leave them out in the woods where they belong, to delight us when we happen upon them, these pert little posies "blooming" all winter long.


catharus said...

There's that wonderful Santa and his northwoods companions again! I love it!

asita said...

I think of advent the same way - it really has its own meaning. Far from my family in Sweden it makes a bond between us when I think of my mother's favorite advent candle holder.

threecollie said...

Oh, my, such incredible photos! Love the water and the bubbles and all of them.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how your amazing photography could get better, and then you go an take pictures like these and yesterday's!!!

In the past year you have prompted and inspired me to develop a better eye and look ever more closely at the tiny treasures one can see both in nature and just 'out and about'.

Thank you. A wonderful and blessed Christmas to you, your family, and all your 'followers'.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Love the Santa shrine!!!

And those bubbles - look like glass beads. Delightful!

Happy Solstice!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

I'm glad you like my little Santa, catharus. He was a gift from a neighbor who used to see my canoe on my car all the time. I wonder if I will ever find a fisher, a bobcat, a mink, an otter, and a beaver to add to my critter collection. Bald eagle and raven would be great, too.

Hi asita, thanks for stopping by. I'll bet you miss your Swedish traditions, like St. Lucia buns. Did you ever wear a crown of candles?

Thanks, threecollie, glad you like the photos. Funny, when I set out on my walk, I didn't think there'd me anything worth taking pictures of. But there's always SOMEthing remarkable in nature, isn't there?

Hikeagiant, your comments are so generous! Thank you. And it really thrills me to think that I might have inspired you to pay more attention to the wonders around us. A blessed Christmas to you and yours.

Happy Solstice to you, too, Ellen. Only two more days, and the light starts to return to us. I hope you have a happy holiday, maybe even with some snow. I'll always recall our adventures together tracking animals through the snow.

Maggie said...

What a beautiful gift this blog is!